In December 1965, the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, formed a LRRP platoon, and by April 1966, the 1st Infantry Division, 25th Infantry Division and each of the four Battalions of the 173rd Airborne Brigade formed LRRP units as well. On 8 July 1966, General William Westmoreland authorized the formation of a (LRRP) unit in each infantry brigade or division in Vietnam. By 1967 formal LRRP companies were organized, most having three platoons, each with five six-man teams equipped with VHF/FM AN/PRC-25 radios. LRRP training was notoriously rigorous and team leaders were often graduates of the U.S. Army’s 5th Special Forces Recondo School in Nha Trang, Vietnam.
Tiger Force was the nickname of a long-range reconnaissance patrol unit of the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade (Separate), 101st Airborne Division, which fought in the Vietnam War. Their high bodycounts were recognized and encouraged by military officials. Their commander Col. Morse ordered troops to rack up a body count of 327 casualties in order to match the battalion’s infantry designation, 327th; however by the end of the campaign soldiers were congratulated for their 1000th kill.[ The platoon-sized unit, approximately 45 paratroopers, was founded by Colonel David Hackworth in November 1965 to “outguerrilla the guerrillas”. Tiger Force (Recon) 1/327th was a highly decorated small unit in Vietnam, and paid for its reputation with heavy casualties. In October 1968, Tiger Force’s parent battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation by President Lyndon B. Johnson, which included a mention of Tiger Force’s service at Đắk Tô in June 1966.
Since satellite communications were a thing of the future, one of the most daring long-range penetration operations of the war was launched by members of Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP) of the 1st Air Cavalry Division‘s, against the North Vietnamese Army when they seized “Signal Hill” the name attributed to the peak of Dong Re Lao Mountain, a densely forested 4,879-foot mountain, midway in A Shau Valley, so its 1st and 3rd Brigades, who would be fighting behind a wall of mountains, could communicate with Camp Evans near the coast or with approaching aircraft.
The US Marine Corps also performed long-range reconnaissance missions typically assigned to Marine Recon, especially Force Recon at the corps-level (i.e., Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF)) level, as opposed to the Battalion Recon units answering to battalion commanders. Marine Recon teams typically were twice as large as Army LRRPs and were more heavily armed, however, sacrificing a degree of stealth. In addition, the Marines did not employ indigenous Montagnards as front and rear scouts as Army LRRPs and Special Forces teams did which proved invaluable in confusing the enemy if contact was made.[The tactical employment of LRRPs was later evaluated to be generally used far too dangerously by commanders, who were pleased by the kill ratios of LRRPs teams (reported as high as 400 enemy troops for every LRRP killed). Writes one commentator: “During the course of the war LRRPs conducted around 23,000 long-range patrols, of this amount two-thirds resulted in enemy sightings.” LRRPs also accounted for approximately 10,000 enemy KIA through ambushes, air strikes, and artillery.
In February 1969, all US Army LRRP units were folded into the newly formed 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger), a predecessor of the 75th Ranger Regiment, bringing back operational Ranger units for the first time since the Korean War. The Army had disbanded Ranger units after Korea, but kept Ranger School, on the premise that spreading Ranger School graduates throughout the Army would improve overall performance. The initial Ranger companies formed in 1969 were: “A” V Corps Rangers, Fort Hood, Texas; “B” VII Corps Rangers, Fort Lewis, Washington; “C” I Field Forces, Vietnam; “D” II Field Forces, Vietnam; “E” 9th Infantry Division, Vietnam; F 25th Infantry Division, Vietnam; “G” 23rd Infantry Division, Vietnam; “H” 1st Cavalry Division, Vietnam; “I” 1st Infantry Division, Vietnam; “K” 4th Infantry Division, Vietnam; “L” 101st Airborne Division, Vietnam; “M” 199th Light Infantry Brigade, Vietnam; “N” 173rd Airborne Brigade, Vietnam; “O” 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Vietnam; “P” 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized), Vietnam; “D/151” Indiana National Guard; and “F/425 ” Michigan National Guard.
The legacy of LRRP units also continues on in the U.S. Army’s Long Range Surveillance (both detachments and companies) and Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition squadrons.